For Vogue Knitting Magazine‘s Fall 2016 special issue, I was asked to make a hat, which to my delight made it onto the cover. So what was my design process? The first thing I did when I got my assigned yarn, Rowan Felted Tweed, was to begin swatching. I started with a favorite peerie pattern to get the juices flowing, knitting in the round, just as I’d make a hat, but smaller, with only enough stitches to fit on a 16in/40cm circular needle. Next I worked a border pattern, tried another peerie with couple of colors that looked great together in the ball, but not when used as pattern color and background color (hidden in this picture). Then I kind of hit the wall. I decided to just try knitting all the colors I had using a favorite “diamonds” or “peaks” pattern which is usually found framing border patterns. It is often knit using ombre tones of a single color from dark to light or visa versa. I used them in my Valenzi Cardigan… You can see on my swatch above I didn’t do the ombre until after I knit the border pattern and then I used it with warm colors. I decided I liked the last bit of the swatch, but would think about denim colors, because I really really liked them, and felt cheery when I was using them.

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While I was swatching I was thinking about the shape of the hat. I knew I wanted a pointed hat, because I love pointed hats. I considered a traditional fisherman’s ‘kep’ or cap, from Fair Isle, the island. These have a plain lining and folded brim much like a Scandinavian dubbelmossa. There are two examples above, the gorgeous one on the left from the Shetland Museum collection is folded up the way a fisherman would wear it. On the right you can see a kep before the lining is pushed inside. This one is in the Shetland Textile Museum. As much as I love these traditional keps, knitting one is a tremendous commitment and I wanted a hat that was quick to knit and more accessible for those who might be new to stranded knitting.

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Which put me in mind of the kind of pointed hat I’d knit before, and then later discovered similar ones in the Shetland Museum, two fisherman’s hats from the island of Yell. Above are replicas knit in the 1940s of hats from the 1880s, the caption explains that the bright red one was the captain’s.

So I started another swatch, using the peeries on the regular fisherman’s hat above right, the dark blue one, and practiced colors again.

I’ve got a few pointed hats in my repertoire…so I knew the style from Yell would be a little too long and require too much attention to keep the pattern in order while decreasing, but I liked the curve of the point, though I wanted it to narrow faster. By this time I pretty much knew what I wanted. I had two large swatches for gauge, only a little math to do and I was ready to go!

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Vogue Knitting is hosting a Knit-Along for my cover hat. Find out all the details on their Vogue Knitting Live Group page.

I’m casting on today! In RED. Because I’m the captain of the ship!!!!

If you’ll be attending Vogue Knitting Live in Minneapolis there will be a meet up of KAL participants on Sunday November 6. Wear your hat!!! I’ll be teaching the weekend and hosting a “Shetlandia” evening along with Gudrun Johnston and June Hemmons Hiatt.
Hope to see you there!


Find my other pointy hats! Fair Isle Sampler Hat on the left and two colorways of Elfin Peak.

Interested in making a real Fair Isle Fisherman’s Kep? Join the Facebook Group “The Fair Isle Fisherman’s Kep Page”. You have to request to join. Once in, you’ll find loads of inspiration from the many pictures of keps posted and also learn how to order a pattern designed by Anne Sinclair which is being sold to support the “George Waterston Memorial Centre and Museum”, on Fair Isle. Buying a pattern also helps the island Post Office.  Dottie Widmark of the Net Loft in Cordova Alaska, received permission for my class to use this pattern as part of The Cordova Gansey Project. We had a wonderful time making up our own versions of this fisher-folk hat. Make sure you read Dottie’s blog about the Gansey Project...an amazing journey that continues.

Jamieson & Smith has a pattern for a lined Fair Isle Fisherman’s Cap.

Handknitting With Meg Swansen includes a pattern for a dubbelmossa.